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Sriwijaya Air crash: A Preliminary Analysis

· Aviation,Aviation Safety,Boeing


Sriwijaya Air crash: A Preliminary Analysis

Indonesia is in the news again for another plane crash, this time with a Boeing 737-500, however this tragedy has nothing to do with the MCAS situation of Boeing’s latest 737-MAX generation.

On Saturday, January 9th, 2020 a 20+ year old 737-500 crashed into the sea after taking off from Jakarta during a heavy rain storm that delayed its initial takeoff, with no presumed survivors of the 62 people on board.

The 737 was incident free when it reached an altitute of about 10,000 feet (3,050 meters), then the 737 leveled off, and cruised between 10,000 and 11,000 feet for close to 45 seconds.

Initial reports show a small debris field which points to the plane being intact upon impact with the water.

Furthermore initial data shows the plane lost over 10,000 feet in just 14 seconds, pointing to a horrendous dive situation the pilots found themselves unable to recover from.

Divers have already located the black box should be able to find the CVR or Cockpit Voice Recorder, so we should have more clarity in the coming weeks to months, but sometimes bureaucracy can take even longer to conclude.

Indonesia’s military chief Air Chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto told reporters that the plane’s still missing “black box,” also known as the cockpit voice recorder, was likely to be found soon because its beacon was being emitted in the same area.

Upon first glance at the incident it looks like an accelerated dive which would make one suspect that both or one of the engines was still functioning. If that was the case, there was clearly a mistake in the functioning of the plane.

Ümit Celik, an aviation expert & CEO of AviRate International is reminded of the 1996 Birgen Air flight 301 disaster that also had no survivors.

In that instance the plane had an unidentified wasp’s nest that made one of the flight data intake mechanisms act faulty.

So the pilots thought the plane was going too fast when in fact it was going too slowly, they lost thrust in one engine causing a violent spin and roll into a dive that they could not recover from, in that instance one engine flamed out while the other kept burning.

One of the Sriwijaya Air engines found by divers was running at high power at the moment of impact, which leads one to believe that the pilots were trying to recover from a stall.

Could that have happened here?

Do we have another instance of faulty maintenance leading to a catastrophic failure that the pilots were unable to recover from?

Written by Alexander Fleiss & Edited by Jack Argiro & Jules Hirschkorn